Resources Lesson 2: Refugee Politics in Australia

Refugee politics in Australia

The politics of refugee and asylum seekers in Australia is an ongoing saga. Two papers describe some of the history well: Despair as a Governing Strategy: Australia and the Offshore Processing of Asylum-Seekers on Nauru and Asylum, Detention, and Mental Health in Australia, are both in the Journal of Refugee Studies (only abstracts can be seen as the journal is not open access).

The impact of deterrence measures on the health and wellbeing of refugees. The way asylum seekers are treated on arrival can itself cause, or compound, health problems. This is a particular problem in Australia where policies such as issuing temporary protection rather than permanent visas can have a serious negative impact on mental health because it creates uncertainty, meaning that refugees cannot feel the sense of safety and security necessary to recover from past trauma and move on with their lives.

Here is a trailer for the 2016 documentary Chasing Asylum

In The Health Care Consequences Of Australian Immigration Policies, Sanggaran et al argue that there are effects on the healthcare providers also: "In Australia, immigration policy is to incarcerate those seeking asylum in order to deter others from coming. Within this environment, health care providers frequently experience “dual loyalty” conflict, whereby they cannot serve the interests of both their patients and their employers". The paper provides a clear summary of the immigration policies in place in 2016.

Despite the concern expressed by many Australian healthcare professionals about the treatment of asylum seekers, there are many well regarded programmes to care for refugees and migrants. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians have a position statement Policy on Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health which describes many of the available programmes, as well as the history, global and policy contexts. It is a substantial resource, containing over 230 references

Once a refugee has been accepted to Australia, there are many services available as part of the humanitarian settlement services programme. Nevertheless, access to services by asylum seekers may be limited. Although it does not have a direct service role the Refugee Council of Australia also performs a valuable information function.

Last modified: Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 9:15 AM